Fuel Safety on Your Truckmount

October 15, 2001
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There are many things you need to concern yourself with when it comes to truckmount safety. The foremost is a fuel leak.

There are many reasons and causes that should concern you when it comes to avoiding a truckmount fire. The foremost cause would be some form of a fuel leak, either an external leak onto a hot engine or an internal build up of fumes or fuel. As far as an internal leak is concerned, it would be pretty difficult to avoid or prevent a fire or problem of this nature. However, timely and proper service/preventative maintenance would help you to avoid such a problem simply by taking care of your machine.

As far as external problems go, visual inspections will be the best way to avoid such fires or the potential for a fire. The majority of slide-in truckmounts have a fuel line and pump that feed from the vehicle fuel tank. This requires drilling into the vehicle gasoline-filling spout in order to feed a secondary fuel line into the gas tank. This typically involves mounting a small external fuel pump inside the van on the wheel well. From this point, the fuel line then runs to the machine's carburetor.

The location - and careful installation - of the pump and fuel line are of greatest concern. They can be bumped or damaged when loading equipment or moving items within the van because they are exposed. As you can see from photo #1, the fuel pump in this van is located on the wheel well of the van behind the waste recovery tank. It is mounted solidly and has a good ground. However, there are items being stored in this area that could potentially cause a problem. Should a small leak develop at the point where the fuel line attaches to the pump, a shifting item could cause a spark, igniting the leaking fuel. So it's important that nothing is stored near this pump. You might also consider covering the pump with a small piece of sheet metal, which can easily removed if mounted with screws.

The fuel line in this van runs alongside the machine, and is strapped to the unit's frame as it travels toward the carburetor. In photo #2, the fuel line appears to be very close to the unit's heat exchangers. This is a fire hazard just waiting to happen. Photo #3 shows a safer installation of kerosene fuel line.

Periodically, all fuel lines should be visually inspected for rubber degradation, and kinks, cracks and hose clamps should be routinely tightened as part of your monthly maintenance program.

Remember: Greater care should be observed when dealing with gasoline as it takes only a minor spark to set it off.

As far as internal fire causes are concerned, the causes can be many. However, in most truckmount fires, the source of the fire is rarely, if ever, discovered. As with all internal combustion engines, the carburetor is the primary source of fires. Whether the mounting gasket at the base of the carburetor begins to leak fuel or one of the fuel jets is malfunctioning, such problems may go un-noticed for long periods of time.

The key to avoiding these types of potential fires is to develop and implement a systemized maintenance program. Such a program could involve monthly fuel system inspections and quarterly tune-ups of the cleaning unit.

While you might consider quarterly intervals excessive, consider the fact that these small engines operate at extremely high RPM, have heat exchangers that inhibit normal exhaust flow, are located in small poorly ventilated areas and vibrate immensely. In retrospect, the monthly inspection could also include bolt and screw tightening to ensure that nothing vibrates loose.

Many truckmounts also use external heating units to generate hot water; such units would employ kerosene or propane to fire the burners for the external heater. While both fuel sources are somewhat safer than gasoline, each has its own safety problem. Should you use propane, it should be installed and serviced by an authorized and licensed propane service technician only.

Typically, such installations are visually inspected each time the fuel tank is filled. Since the propane tank is mounted outside of the vehicle, few problems should occur save for a build up of propane fumes within the van itself. Electronic thermal-couplers and self-igniting pilot starters should remove all problems with internal propane hook ups. However, older burners that use pilot lights should be inspected before each use to ensure that the pilot light is burning and that no fumes have built up within the van.

Kerosene is not as volatile as gasoline, but it can be easily ignited and will cause a devastating fire within your truckmount. Since kerosene tanks are stored within the van itself having the properly approved fuel tank installed should prevent any potential fire hazards.

By following the same safety checks as listed for propane and gasoline, and employing a systemized maintenance program you should be able to avoid a fire, regardless of the fuel source used.

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